Communications with Coma and Nonresponsive Alzheimer Patients
Coma is defined as a state of almost total unresponsiveness to external stimulation in which the patient lies with his eyes closed. It is a condition in which the normal cognitive and communicative functioning of the patient is hampered.
However, ongoing research in the field has found out that there may be small “islands” of consciousness, even in persistent vegetative states. This could be another example of how the conscious is separate from the physical body.
Success in communicating with a comatose patient lies in identifying these islands wherein there may be some form of eye movement, vocalization, or change in facial expression of the patient.
It is believed that in a comatose patient, the attention is fixed in the past, that is, before the incident that led to the coma. So the aim of communication with such a patient is to make him aware of the present. One method of doing this is to place an object in his hand and tell him what it is. (The faculty of hearing remains intact until the very last breath.) This method of interacting with a coma patient is called “unconscious patient assist.”
Newer methods, which utilize measurement of brain activity in response to certain stimuli and convert them into bio-signals that can be read by EEG or computers, are also under research.
Nonverbal communication plays an important role in interaction with a comatose patient or one in an advanced stage of Alzheimer's. While communicating with such patients, touch therapy is said to work wonders. Merely touching the patient tenderly can establish a physical connection with them and the care providers.
This type of therapy also allows these patients to communicate with us on social, emotional, and cognitive levels. Music is said to be a preverbal function of our brain, that is, it developed before the function of deciphering language evolved. The different elements of music, like rhythm, pitch, and melody, are processed by different parts of the brain. The emotions attached with the music are processed in the limbic system. Comprehending music thus provides a form of mental exercise to all parts of the brain.
There is ongoing research to develop more effective means of communicating with comatose and nonresponsive Alzheimer's patients. There are reported cases where psychic mediums have made contact with coma and nonresponsive Alzheimer patients, who communicate that they are aware of their current surroundings, people in their lives, as well as past memories. They relate that they are not in any pain and even have had contact with deceased loved ones, which bring them great peace. This information from the medium is related to a loved one who authenticates the facts that the patient has communicated. This reinforces the belief that consciousness is separate from the actual physical brain, and when the body can no longer function and dies, an afterlife is possible.